I’ll be writing for the next month, the last month of my twenty-eighth year, to purge stories from my “romantic” history (inspired by recent abandonment).
In an effort to not be such a bitch, I’m going to protect the anonymity of my past lovers by calling them all Eddie. I have thereby entitled this series, “Eddie, I hate you”.
Eddie was my first kiss.
I was eighteen years old and an acting student at Syracuse University.
Winter in Syracuse, New York really was the Arctic Hell I had heard it would be. For one thing, the weather lived up to it’s reputable white-out snow storms and visibly darker skies painted the kind of grey The Romantics used to illustrate their unmatchable depressions but, on a completely separate level, I was living through my own unmatchable depression, probably the worst I had ever suffered from myself.
That fall, I had arrived at school unknowingly stomping through my first hypo-manic episode. I leveled out sometime in November but, when I came home to Toronto in December, something happened. I all of a sudden became obsessed with the world.
I can’t remember, I will never remember what triggered my complete distraction away from what I always wanted to be because I had always wanted to be an actress in New York City and I worked incredibly hard to find myself in an American school if only for the opportunity to martyr myself, even temporarily, for what I wanted: I wanted to be a New York City Actress. I was almost there. I was in New York State (not even close to the city but, let’s pretend) and I was an acting student. I was proud until I wasn’t.
I do not remember that winter break. I cannot remember if I went out of town with my family, if I stayed home in Toronto, if I had any friends, I can’t even picture myself staying with my parents even though I’m sure that’s where I was. It’s a complete blank. Something happened. I became obsessed with Humans and our disgusting treatment of our ecosystems. The environment suddenly needed me.
I returned to school convinced that I had a higher purpose. It was something to do with global warming, it was something to do with Important Things, it was something to do with a sudden line of thinking leading me to believe that what I always thought mattered the most, art and expression and storytelling, didn’t matter at all. Suddenly all that mattered was a conformed version of sustainability. Everything else was stupid.
I dipped into a mood I will never forget feeling and never remember why I felt that way. I stopped going to class. I stopped talking to my friends. Nobody liked me anymore. I blamed them but I shouldn’t have. I blamed their ignorance but: What ignorance? I could not relate to anyone anymore. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing could be done. Least of all acting. Least of all art. Least of all: Training myself to pretend.
Two months into my state of depression and I compromised with the head of my department. I dropped all my acting classes. I maintained just enough credits to remain an actual student at Syracuse University and I just kind of float around, existing. It lifted wonders. I knew I would be going home at the end of the year. It wasn’t even a decision I made. It was freedom finding me. I would no longer be an acting student. Why? Because I wanted to do more. What? Evidently I found something else but, is it more? Not really. It’s a little bit more personal, writing, compared to acting, for me at least but I’ve come right back to my roots. So: Ten years later and what was all that sadness for?
At the first hint of freedom, my mood began turning around.
Still winter, February, I began running in the cold. I was a runner when I arrived at the school. I stopped for months, a brief period dedicated to dark thoughts and sterile regrets but, once I got back into the habit of running and of a few other exercises, I felt light-years better.
I made a running partner friend. She lived in my residence. She was incredibly beautiful, friendly, down to Earth, all the good things. Her room was next door to mine and so I’d often end up watching her get ready for parties.
“You should come with us” she said.
If you haven’t gone to an American University, I should fill you in. Most campus nightlife is known for two things: Sexual assault and parties. I was afraid of both those things. I am still afraid of both those things.
I had been to maybe two or three frat parties at the start of the year when I was brave. I’d show up and stand there, watch young men be young men, young women be young women, hate myself, look for the door and leave. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t know how to have fun. I really grew up with no friends and so my socialization began when I got to Syracuse. In fact, upon meeting my group of friends within the first month or so of school, I remember thinking, “oh I get it. Friendship. This is that.” Anything I did at Syracuse I did for the first time. Including my first kiss.
One thing that kept me from parties was a true fear of sex. Having sex. seeing sex, hearing sex. it all scared me because I had never done it and I was so sure that everyone had, so should I be in the presence of it, how humiliating would it be if I was foreign to the occasion. I really feared embarrassment. Most young people do.
My beautiful friend took me to a party. It was a house party. It was packed. I don’t know if it was themed or if she knew someone there, I have no idea what brought us to this particular party but I remember hearing that some boys had found sex toys in the room upstairs and I immediately ran to the basement.
The basement cradled the beer pong table. If you have never played beer pong, allow me to enlighten you: One ping pong ball, a table full of cups of little shots of beer, throw the ball into your opponent’s cup, they must drink the beer. The first person to have no cups of beer in front of them loses. Beer pong. Is it fun? Well, the men usually take over so, no because it’s irritating and infuriating any time a man takes over anything that didn’t need a man but oh wow suddenly women don’t belong here so: Is it fun? No.
At this point, I have only ever witnessed it being played, I have never actually played the game and, I’ll admit, I really didn’t understand what was happening when I watched. For some reason it took me a very long time to grasp the concept of Beer Pong which is upsetting because really dumb people play this game constantly and I couldn’t wrap my head around why it was so emotional for the men who would play.
This night, two men are playing beer pong.
My beautiful friend, tall, brave, smart, asks if we can play.
Beautiful and I play two men in beer pong.
She is incredible.
I suck. I don’t touch the ball because I’m afraid.
One of the men, the bigger guy, remarks that I have to play.
The smaller guy says he’ll show me. This is Eddie.
He stands behind me and helps me throw a ping pong ball into a cup of beer.
He is The One.
We lose because I lose it for us. A team of two other men take over and eventually the men who let us play with them are away from the table.
They aren’t students.
From time to time, locals would show up at university parties just because they heard that we were having a party and they wanted somewhere to drink.
These guys are truckers.
I stand in the middle of the room, staring into a red cup, periodically looking up to see if I’m in anyone’s way, my beautiful friend beside me chatting with men she doesn’t know and Eddie moves past me. He moves past me and, as he moves past me, he puts his hands on my waist just slightly just to guide me out of the way.
I feel an intimate twitching in an untouchable anatomical area.
Eddie turned me on.
He comes back.
He talks to me.
About what? I don’t know but he is so close to me that I keep wondering if I am supposed to kiss him. I have never been kissed, I wouldn’t know how, what is this experience and why doesn’t it come with instructions, if I would just go to more parties and watch more people making out (because that’s acceptable) I would know how to do this but I don’t know how to do this. I don’t even know this man’s name.
I stay at this party all night. The house is emptying. Eddie stays with me. In fact, the next day, my friend describes us as “Cute” because he had been holding me.
It didn’t occur to me and it still hardly occurs to me that men can be nervous too. Men get nervous. Men are nervous. Everyone is nervous. Hardly anyone has sex confidently unless they’ve known their partner a while. We’re all really afraid. Eddie must also have had thoughts regarding “how”. Of course, at the time and maybe even instinctively now I still would think that I alone was frozen in Not Knowing.
The truth is none of us know. The trick is honesty. Just kiss him like you’ve never been kissed.
He walks me outside. I tell him I have to go home. He asks if he can come. I tell him I have two roommates and there’s really no room. He tells me he is crashing on someone’s floor but, if I want to, I can do that with him. I tell him I don’t sleep well on floors. He understands.
We leave the party. On the back step of this house I’ve never been to in the slight snowfall of a Syracusian winter’s night, Eddie kisses me. For the first time, I’m kissed.
It’s really gross.
I hate it.
I hope it ends.
Eddie asks for my number.
I give him my number.
I say goodbye.
I take one step and I fall, flat on my back, head hitting the step. I lie in the snow.
I think something along the lines of “Now. I. Die.”
Eddie helps me up.
I say “I fell”.
He says “It’s ok.”
I say, “No, it hurts.”
He says, “It’s ok”.
He kisses me again.
I really hate it.
I go home.
The next day I get text messages from a landline.
This is 2007 so maybe not everyone has a cell phone, still, I have no idea what’s happening and I’m sure aliens are trying to abduct me through my phone.
My beautiful friend and I are studying in the dining room. She says “Call the number.”
I call the number.
Complete confusion but then, elated excitement. I have a boyfriend now. We kissed and one time he also healed me from a fall. We’re speaking on the phone. This must be what a relationship is.
This must be love.
The conversation is lame. He asks about my life and I ask about his but we’re both so boring or at least so unsure about who we are that we can’t really speak about much.
He tells me he’s a trucker and he ends up being six years older than I am. At the time, I am eighteen so, as a twenty-four year old, he’s a little turned off.
He doesn’t leave me alone, though.
He texts me often from various land lines, paging me and we speak. After a week of chase which feels like years, he asks if he can see me again.
I become impulsively nervous. Holding the phone, speaking to a young American trucker who I don’t know, I suddenly realize, this is the kind of narrative that leads to gang bangs and heroine addictions. Only, not really but, anxiety takes over. I suddenly remember the world again. I go back to that place that sent me plummeting, I remember, things are meant to end, that’s the way the world works, global warming, nuclear weapons, Haitian orphans, whatever, I cannot put myself in danger above and beyond the danger I am inherently in, no, say no to Eddie but when he politely asks a third time if he can “hey, just meet up with you, why not”, I make plans with him.
I don’t want to. Nothing in me wants to. The only thing in me that led to an “ok” was the fear that I will never find another man to kiss me.
We plan to meet at a bar. I am far underage. I know I’m not going.
I don’t go.
I don’t tell him that I’m not going.
I just don’t go.
This is the one and only time I desert a man out of fear.
Good thing he could just get in his truck and drive away. He drove there just to see me. He paged many times, I think from the bar’s landline. I obsessed over him all night and then I just forgot about him.
I did not gain bravery. I did not gain sexual urges. All I gained was more fear.
I don’t know what happens with kisses. They feel really good now. I constantly crave being kissed. But, I’ll never forget how terrible it was to be kissed for the first time. It might have been that he was just bad at kissing. More likely, though, I didn’t feel his kiss at all. All I felt was the fear of inadequacy and the curious momentum of a young girl who isn’t sure why anyone would want to kiss her at all.